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Welcome to the Indie Media Club

In this inaugural episode of The Indie Media Club podcast, host Ben Aston introduces The Club, explains what it’s all about and shares his indie media story.

Ben Aston

Welcome to the Indie Media Club Podcast. I’m Ben Aston, founder of the Indie Media Club. We’re on a mission to help independent, bootstrapped media entrepreneurs succeed, to help people who create, promote, and monetize through content, do it better. Check out indiemedia.club to find out more. 

Welcome to the Indie Media Podcast. A big, fat welcome to you. 

So thanks for tuning in. I’m Ben Aston, founder of the Indie Media Club. We’re on a mission to help digital media entrepreneurs succeed, to help people who create, promote, and monetize through content do it better. We’re here to help you take your content and marketing game to the next level. Check out Indiemedia.club to learn about our membership for online media entrepreneurs. 

So welcome to the first-ever Indie Media Club podcast. I’m your host, Ben Aston. And a big, fat, warm welcome, thank you for joining us today. I’m going to share a little bit about what you can expect from this podcast. I’m going to be introducing the new members club we’re starting. It’s called the Indie Media Club.

And I’m going to share a bit of my own story, too. But let me start by explaining then what to expect from this podcast. And let’s be honest. It’s episode one. I don’t really know fully.

This is a beautiful experiment. And I’m starting this podcast to help fellow media entrepreneurs. I wanted to level up together. Now, I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never been taught how to do this. I’m not a journalist. I’ve never worked for a media company. So in some ways, I’m absolutely clueless, but not entirely.

Something is going okay. I’m now running a media company that generated over a million dollars in revenue last year.

So something is going right.

But by no means all of it.

So on this podcast, I’ll be sharing the journey that I’m on to learn and discover how to create better content, how to promote it, how to monetize it, and build a successful online media business.

We’re going to be talking about the things that keep me awake at night, and that’s namely things around content, content strategy, content creation, content tools, content publishing. We’re going to be talking about marketing inbound and outbound. We’re going to be talking about PR and outreach. We’re going to be talking about the money, about monetization, strategy, execution, and ad technology.

And we’re going to be talking about the business managing and scaling the team and the business and growing things in a sustainable way. So the Indie Media Club podcast is going to give you the inside track on the bleeding edge of content marketing and who’s going to be on the show? Well, you dear listener. Head to indiemedia.club. And tell me who you are. And we’ll get you on the show. But in the meantime, we’ll be talking to media entrepreneurs and to people creating tools and services that support media entrepreneurs.

We’ve got a few interviews lined up already with some people who’ve had some great success. So you’re going to learn from their stories and you’re going to discover something about their journey, their process, their tools, tips, and tricks, how they create engaging content, how they grow their readership. So you’re going to get stacks of valuable insights on how to do things properly or at least better and keep listening to get insights as well from services and tools that you can use to build out your platform. So this is going to be one big value bomb all wrapped up in one delicious podcast. I hope that makes sense. 

But next up, I want to explain what the Indie Media Club is. So it’s a members club. It’s for media entrepreneurs, people who are passionate about great content, people who are trying to grow their audience. And our goal really is just foster and develop this community where we can share best practice tips and tricks so that you can publish better content and grow readership. 

So right now, we’re focused on three things. The club that I mentioned and that really is something for established media entrepreneurs. And for those people, if that’s you, we provide regular masterminds and a forum as well online to connect with people who are successfully running sites, monetizing their sites, and growing a business around it. And we’ve also got this podcast, obviously, and that’s for content creators, marketers, and tools to share their journey. And if you’re interested in being featured, please get in touch. And another thing I wanted to mention that we’re doing is a boot camp. And this is a free training and mentorship initiative for people who’ve been laid off because of the virus. We’re helping people build essential skills and find work in digital content roles. 

But I also wanted to explain as well as there, you know, what we’re doing. What I mean by indie media, why we called it that? Well, I think indie media is something that’s independent. So you can publish whatever you want, whenever you want it. You’re not beholden to external investors or people dictating the editorial. I think Indie media is probably bootstrapped. It probably started as a passion project and, you know, developed, flourished into something entirely different. But maybe this started out as something that is not about the money to start with. It started as a passion project and indie media.

I think it’s quality content. It’s not just clickbaity, spammy, fluffy, SEO content, although I’m sure we do some of that as well. But we’re monetizing primarily through content. Maybe that’s affiliate or advertising. Maybe you’ve got some educational component to it, membership training or coaching. So that’s kind of my loose definition of Indie media and I’m sure that definition will change over time. But that’s where I’m at right now. And I’d love to know what you think as well. When you think of indie media, what does that mean to you? Let me know. But let’s move on now to my story and say.

Being the egotistical narcissist that I am. I thought you might want to learn a little bit more about who I am and how I’ve come to be a media entrepreneur, which is what I call myself. So I’m gonna share a bit of my story to hopefully give you some context and really provide this, I guess, foundational understanding of what I mean by Indie media because I think it’s what I do. So I’ve been creating websites, publishing content, and creating communities for more than 20 years. It seems like a long time, but I’ve been doing it since I was 14.

My first website was I actually just tried looking up on the Wayback Machine, but it’s not it wasn’t crawled. Oddly enough, but it was called The World of Ben. And it was kind of like Facebook before its time. I had profiles for people. I had galleries, videos, a forum. It was beautiful. But sadly, that is now lost. I then graduated to my first satirical news site. Now, this. You can find a Wayback Machine. It’s called seuch-times.co.uk and that was back in the early 2000s. It was kind of the onion before its time. And then I kind of abandoned that. And my main outlet was BenAston.com, which still exists and it’s still a mess, but you can find plenty of old content in there. 

And during that time. I guess around the university, my plan had been to do computer science, and I spent a year actually working in the industry before I was going to start my computer science degree. I worked in industry and I worked as a web developer. So that’s kind of where I got the technical hard skills to create websites. And I’ve been writing content for a long time. So I had a bit of a background in how to make websites, how to create content just from the content that I’ve been creating. But no one’s ever really taught me how to do this. And then after University, in which I didn’t actually do Computer Science, but I did politics and International Relations instead at Sussex University. I realized that I think I thought I wanted to work in communications, in Marketing and Advertising. I thought that was kind of sexy. So I headed to the big agencies in London. 

I started off at an agency called Lowe, which has now been, I think, a called DLKW Lowe. I spent some time at Publicis. I spent some time at Wunderman. Basically, my entire career was spent at ad and digital agencies. 

So I had this kind of passion for marketing, passion for communications. And at the same time, I was continuing to develop benaston.com. And then back in 2012, I started a site called The Digital Project Manager. And this was actually the idea for this was that it was going to start as an e-book. And then I realized that once I created this e-book, who would buy it? And so I thought, oh, I’ll create a blog to go alongside the e-book. And that can kind of hopefully generates some interest around the book.

Turns out I’ve never actually finished that e-book that I started. But thedigitalprojectmanager.com is a thing and that’s become really my primary business, I guess. So I was running that alongside working for agencies until 2018 when I left the agency world because thedigitalprojectmanager.com, my site was doing so well and making enough money that I could leave it. So I founded my business, which is called Black and White Zebra, and we’re really about making serious and boring things understandable and a lot more fun.

So what we’re doing is creating platforms for digital thought leadership to help people and organizations succeed. And we do that by creating content that educates people. It’s content with a purpose. And we’re helping people succeed personally and also helping the organization succeed. So the digital project manager. Check it out. It’s got a whole bunch of how-to guides. We’ve got loads of tool posts explaining which tools to choose and use. And so we monetize through a primarily through advertising. We also monetize through our training. And we monetize as well. Through our membership. 

So, as I said, last year, we generated a million in revenue. We’ve got a team of about 11 of us in total. So six of those people are based in Vancouver and we have some people who work offshore as well. And so the team is made up of. We have some Content Entry VA kind of people. We have a full-time designer, a full-time video editor. We have a couple of people working in the sales and marketing side of things. We have an editor who we have a kind of production guy who kind of manages the platform and the website. And then there’s me. And it’s messy. It’s fun. We spit out a lot of content. So our main site is still The Digital Project Manager. But what we’ve done is spend out a few different sites now.

So we have a site called peoplemanagingpeople.com, and we have a podcast host for that. And he’s called Tim Reitsma. We have a site called The QA Lead and that’s hosted by a guy called Jonathon Wright in the UK. And so we’re trying to build out this network of niche sites where we can help people and organizations succeed in these specific digital domains. And yeah, we’re doing that with content that works, that helps educate people, that helps people become more skilled, connected and confident. And that’s really what we’ve been building. So we spit out I think we publish around 60 pieces of content a month, a couple of pieces of content every day.

We’re publishing now, whether that’s a blog post, a video, a podcast, we’re publishing a whole bunch of content, and trying to monetize it as well. As I said, through Advertising training and membership. So that’s kind of a bit of our story. And in terms of how we built our audience, it’s really primarily been through organic. We haven’t done much-paid media, if any at all, in terms of trying to build the audience. We’ve done some paid media for acquisition for that, for the training and membership. But for the site itself, really, it’s been an SEO play.

We’ve written lots of keyword content and managed to grow our readership through driving people to the site, converting them with a lead magnet, and then building up our subscriber list. So we’ve got about 30000 subscribers and about 3000 people in our Slack team, which is kind of where the heart of the community is at the moment. So in terms of how things have changed, obviously at the beginning, I had really no monetization strategy for the site at all. 

And then it began through advertising, people getting in touch with me saying, hey, can I be featured on your site? I thought, hey, that’s cool. Why not? So I started charging people and that has now evolved. So we have about 50 or so partners now paying partners who pay for us to pay to be featured on the website. And that’s growing. And we’ve actually built a bidding system recently so the partners can bid against one another to be featured on the site. So that’s hopefully gonna be a good idea. But we’ll see how well that works out in the next little while. So in terms of the stack that we use, our site is built on WordPress for better or worse as time goes by. I’m thinking maybe we need a more robust solution, but we build on WordPress. We project manage everything through Trello. We use the Google Suite. So everything’s written in Google Docs. And yet we’re managing the whole content process through Trello, through Strategy Briefing. And we have lots of different writers who write for us managing that entire process through Trello, through the publishing content and promoting it as well. 

And I think as we think about what our roadmap is and where we’re going with this, really our goal is to continue to build out these niche communities. So as I talked about in quality assurance, in HR or for Non-HR people, which is what our peoplemanagingpeople.com site is all about. We’re really trying to grow our network of sites and establish ourselves in these what can sometimes be considered boring niche disciplines, not necessarily sexy things like design, but the kind of things that I think or areas of content that are underserved. We think there’s a big opportunity there. So that’s a bit about my story. I hope that’s been helpful. 

Congratulations if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this podcast. I’d love to invite you to join us on our journey to discover how to create better content, promote it, monetize it, and build a successful online media business. So head to indiemedia.club and subscribe, but until next time. Thanks so much for listening.

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